These photographs were taken on a walk along the Eglinton Canal in Galway. The walk was led by Michael J Hynes, and organised by Peadar Canavan, to whom I am grateful.
Updated February 2014 with some maps and additional information about Parkavera Lock, courtesy of Colin Becker.
Michael J Hynes
The biter bit (or snapper snapped): Peadar Canavan
The Eglinton Canal is a short canal, about three quarters of a mile long, that allowed a connection between Lough Corrib and Galway Bay. It followed a roughly semi-circular course around the west of the city (as it then was), bypassing the main line of the river and many other watercourses. It was built by the Commissioners of Public Works between 1848 and 1852; the original estimate allocated £27,000 for the canal and £11,000 to improve the flow to mills in the city. Other improvements were made to the Corrib at the same time and the Cong Canal, linking to Lough Mask, was worked on between 1848 and 1854 (but was abandoned before it was finished).
Locks and bridges
The canal had only two locks: the Parkavera Lock (14′) about two thirds of the way along from the upper end, and the sea lock linking the Claddagh Basin to the bay. Maurice Semple, in By the Corribside, quotes the District Engineer as giving the length of the sea lock as 120′ but, in Reflections on Lough Corrib, says they were 130′ long. There were five hand-operated swing-bridges (swivel-bridges), made of wood on steel frames.
Colin Becker, in February 2014, wrote:
I can tell you that the useable length of the lock is a shade over 120ft ‘cos I went out and wielded my tape measure on it. The distance between the inside faces of the heel posts is 39.3m which is almost 130ft. What might be called the distance between the mitres. Thing is, there is a massive stone cill at the upper end; I estimate it to be about 2.5 metres wide, in effect reducing the length of the lock to 36.8m or about 120ft 6ins.
Ruth Delany gave the max vessel dimensions as 130’ x 20’6″ x 6’6″. The 20’6″ is right, the 130ft is optimistic and the 6’6″ is in fact pessimistic. I estimate the draft, at the upper cill anyway, as 2.4m or 7’10” but the draft limitation may relate to elsewhere in the system.
Maurice Semple says that the income from tolls was £370 in 1880, £35 in 1905, £10 in 1915 and £1 in 1916.
In 1954 Frank Bailey bought the Amo II, a 90′ motor yacht, from the Guinness trustees: it had been part of the family’s fleet at Ashford Castle. Bailey wanted to take it to the sea but, when the authorities examined the bridges, they found that, though they could be opened, they could not be closed again safely. Accordingly, even as Amo II passed down the Eglinton Canal, the swivelling bridges were being removed; they were replaced by fixed bridges that are still there today, and Amo II was the last large vessel to use the Eglinton Canal.
The first section, to the lock
The walk began at the Corrib Rowing and Yacht Club upstream of the end of the canal. Just upstream of the clubhouse are the remains of the viaduct that carried the Galway to Clifden Railway over the Corrib.
The remains of the viaduct
Jumping from the viaduct
This is the club premises …
Corrib Rowing and Yacht Club. You can see this building on the Google satellite view
… where burglars are discouraged.
We walked through part of the university premises to the canal bank; this photo is at the first bridge, University Road (formerly Newcastle Road) bridge, looking back up towards the club.
Looking back upstream from University Road bridge
This is the same bridge; this shot shows the state of the water. Maurice Semple says that the original plan was for a canal eight feet deep, and forty feet wide at the bottom, throughout its length.
The state of the water. Note the railing at bottom right
I should point out, by the way, that there are lots of watercourses off to the right (east), including the Galway River (River Corrib) itself. However, they are not navigable, except perhaps by kayaks and yellow plastic ducks, so they need not detain us.
I think that the next photo shows the Convent River, which flows between two convents. On the back of Peadar O’Dowd’s book (see below), it’s marked as Nuns River. There were twenty-seven water-mills in Galway in the mid-nineteenth century; eight of them seem to have been powered by the Convent River, which itself was fed from the canal.
We are walking along Upper Canal Road, or perhaps Canal Road Upper.
Canal Road Upper
The road curves along the canal …
The curve of Upper Canal Road
… and you can see a youthful angler about half way along.
We are between University Road Bridge and Presentation Bridge. I hope any visiting Galwegians will be able to correct me on the next bit. I think the first photo below is Presentation Road bridge, looking back up the canal, and that the second is the next one down, New Road bridge, again looking back upstream. The bank is now called Lower Canal Road.
Presentation Road bridge. You may just about be able to see something suspended from, or caught by, a wire or rope running across the canal beneath the bridge
New Road bridge
This photo shows clearly a railed-0ff area to the right of the bridge. My guess is that that was to accommodate the swinging mechanism and perhaps the swung bridge. British waterways expert Chris Deuchar says “The landings for the swing bridges are quite clearly seen.”
Below New Road bridge, we come to Parkavera lock (“Parkavera” is an anglicisation of the Irish phrase for “the mayor’s field”).
Above the lock. Presumably the footbridge is a recent (since 1954) addition
Maurice Semple tells us that, in the late nineteenth century, the big wall surrounded the Atlantic Sawmills, Cloherty & Semple, Proprietors. You can make out some of the words.
Cloherty & Semple, Proprietors. I presume they were getting a supply of water from the canal
Now for the lock itself.
The gate: keeping up the level
Note the shadows on the wall, bottom right, like something Nancy Blackett might have drawn. And, above the beam on the right, what may have been the ground-rack/ground-paddle gear. Chris Deuchar says
At the upstream end, I agree that there is substantial ground paddle gear and again, following the English pattern on some waterways, I would expect the lower gates to just have gate paddles.
Colin Becker writes:
I also concluded that the breast gates that are in situ (the deep gates are totally gone) could not actually operate because the footboards are fixed and would foul the sluice-gear if you tried to open them. Whether the gates themselves were replaced or just the footboards it’s hard to tell. The foot-board brackets are substantial iron castings and not hinged. The hinges would have to be in the boards themselves. And they are conspicuous by their absence.
The sluices are all ground racks with very substantial iron head-gear and they appear original so I don’t think they have moved.
The balance beams are rather short for the job but they could have been shortened in more recent times.
The rails and the ladder are presumably recent additions.
Here’s a closer look at the gate itself.
A closer look at the gates. No sign of any provision for gate-racks/gate-paddles
Here’s a lopsided shot along the lock chamber. The lower gates seem to have been removed completely. I presume that the two metal boxes at the rear of the left-hand gate recess were for the gate collar. I don’t know what the two recesses, with steel straps across them, were for. Nor do I know why there are two stone blocks protruding into the gate recesses on the far side.
Chris Deuchar commented:
… it is interesting to see how much remains — including, as you point out, the gate collar ground anchor which is very English in pattern. As for the two recesses below the gate, I am sure the metal plates are a recent addition simply to stop people at the railings from slipping down the holes. Originally I suspect one had a ladder and the other was for stop planks as the … photo [“The lock from below”] shows a similar pair on the opposite side.
There is often a problem in that paddle rods on the gates foul on the wall and so either there is a recess in the masonry or the gate timbers act as a buffer. In your case I think this may be what the stone blocks are for? If there were more I would also suggest they could be used as a ladder because they are obviously staggered.
Looking along the chamber
Here is a more distant view of the lock. The two streams are coming back in from the Convent River, having powered mills along the way (when there were mills, that is). The main part of the Convent River flows into the Galway River (River Corrib) a little way east, again having powered mills en route.
The lock from below
Downstream to the sea
This house on the far bank adds to the attractiveness of the canal.
Next comes Dominick Street bridge. Interestingly, a map in Maurice Semple’s By the Corribside shows this bridge, but doesn’t mark it as a swivel bridge, whereas the others are so marked. The canal looks rather narrow along here, with little room to swing a cat — or a bridge.
Dominick Street bridge (looking back upstream)
Here’s a close-up of the stone building on the left of the previous photo. I have no idea whether it is of waterways significance, but I liked the look of it.
Thalatta! Thalatta! Looking downstream
John Glynn tells me (see Comment below) that this bridge, the last one, was called Ballsbridge. It too was a swivel bridge, leading into the Canal Basin or Claddagh Basin [about which I have a page here]. To the east, it became the Claddagh Bridge over the river. The canal’s stream seems to turn to the left above the bridge and flow over a weir into the river.
The bridge above the basin
A better view of the bridge itself
The bridge from downstream, across the basin
The sea lock is in the opposite corner to the bridge. It too is disused, which seems a pity.
The sea lock from above
The sea lock from below
We end with some scenes from just outside the basin.
Boats at the Claddagh Quay
Outside the wall of the basin
In that last photo, you may just be able to see, to the right of the black boat on shore, what looks like some lock gear. Here’s the black boat again, but it’s no easier to see the gear.
Traditional boat Ga Gréine [Dart of Light] ashore
How’s that for a bowsprit?
I think I’ve already used this last photo on at least two other pages, but what the hell ….
Finding out more
If you can get hold of it, Peadar O’Dowd’s little book, published in 1985, provides an excellent explanation of the many waterways running through Galway.
Galway City Waterways
But the expert on the Corrib was Maurice Semple, who wrote many wonderful books —packed with photos, maps and extracts from documents — on the subject. Here are two of them; try abebooks for others.
By the Corribside
Reflections on Lough Corrib
I learn (from William H A Williams Tourism, Landscape and the Irish Character: British travel writers in pre-Famine Ireland The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison 2008) that Thomas Colville Scott, lead assessor for the Law Life Assurance Company of London, wrote of the Eglinton Canal in 1853:
I am at a loss to know what the new traders on the Lough are going to carry, seeing that the surrounding country is all but hopelessly barren.
Scott’s report, edited by Tim Robinson, was published by Lilliput Press in 2005.